Monday, February 23, 2015

Into the Tomb of the Lizard King - Part 3: KelLyn discovers exploding runes..the hard way

Into the Tomb - Part 2

Past the doors you cannot find, 
Down the steps you cannot climb, 
Across the river of nothingness 
You’ll find your way. 
Beware the marksman and his prey. 
Shun the royal brides. 
Then find the place I lie in eternal feast. 
Past glories I despise 
The light of vengeance fills my eye. 
Treasure I give my servant dragon, 
Guardian loyal of this, my reborn feeding lair.

- riddle found on a scrap of paper in the first level of the tomb of the Lizard King


Once we made it back to the room we had set up as a base camp, the party relaxed for a while, using the time to rest, recuperate, and discuss our next moves. Since all of the supplies had been moved from the kitchen, pantry, and wine cellar to this room, we took some time to go through the various foodstuffs, and enjoyed a decent meal as well as opening up one of the casks of wine. It was a welcome reprieve from the travel rations, and having a good meal did much to improve our spirits. While we ate, a discussion broke out about whether we should venture down into the lower level via the trap door in this room, or if we should instead continue to explore this level first. 

The consensus was that this level should be cleared completely before going down, so after we had rested, Lan used her new sight to see what living things she might be able to see still on this level. She said that she saw a large winged humanoid figure, possibly a demon of some kind, walking across a room some distance away. I took the opportunity to scout ahead, using stealth and skill to remain undetected. I checked the doors for traps, and explored down the corridor until I came up on what was obviously a place of vile worship. Simply walking into this room made me feel nauseated, so I returned to the party to let them know what I had found. 

The rooms revealed appeared to be the captain's quarters, as the furnishings were simple, but of obviously better quality than those found in the barracks. There were two chests in this room, and Ishmael knocked the hinges off to open them without setting the needle traps off, to reveal about 800 silver and several standard sets of clothing. There was nothing else of note in this room, and we continued to explore, discovering a common room, and then finally the worship area.

The worship area, for that is clearly what it was, was repulsive. The idol in the center of the room boasted the repugnant face of the demon god that we had seen elsewhere, and the altar was soaked with congealing blood. The tapestry on the wall was disturbing in it's intensity, and depicted scenes of utter cruelty. The sheer evil here overwhelmed me, and I got physically ill. I said a quiet prayer to my god and goddess to ask for guidance, but the act of simply thinking their names was enough to cause the evil to pulsate in a nauseating fashion, making me ill all over again. 

After I recovered myself, I urged everyone to either destroy everything here or leave now. They helped me move out of the room, promising that we could come back and destroy everything once the lizard king was dealt with. Further explorations revealed the central room for the priests, where incense burned on the table, and robes hung from hooks on the walls. Again, I resisted the urge to destroy everything here, and we eventually discover a small library.

The theme of the books in the library was primarily evil, and more than a few of the books were specifically about dealings with the undead. The subject matter of the books here was enough to make my skin crawl, and I wonder yet at what we still may face. Much to my surprise Shalev and Osman took a few books off of the shelves. Shalev chose a book about identifying undead, probably in hopes that it might reveal clues about what we face, and potential weaknesses it might have. Osman chose two books, one on summoning demons, and another on knowing the true names of the undead. KelLyn immediately went to look at a book that was chained to a pedestal in the center of the room. She began reading the book to herself, and then as she read, her eyes widened, and she made an audible comment about taking the book.Ishmael offered to cut the chain for her, and immediately an argument broke out between the party members about it. Rather than listen to them bicker and snipe at each other about it, I left the room to keep watch in the hallway for potential enemies, continuing to scout quietly ahead. 

It is KelLyn's choice, ultimately, about her path. Her desire for power may eventually be her undoing, but she must be aware that all power has a price. If she is willing to pay that price, then so be it. Shalev is concerned for her, though she sees it more as an annoyance and the two of them argue and misunderstand each other on a nearly constant basis. He has taken her actions quite personally on more than one occasion, and he is quite concerned about what might happen should she delve into the darker arts. He feels, rightfully so, that she is not always careful with her power, although he does forget at times that she is responsible for her fate, and not him. If she ignores the signs and warnings that she gets, and pursues her quest for power to it's ultimate end, then that is her choice, not his. 

My efforts to scout ahead revealed nothing further, so I returned to the library to see that KelLyn had indeed taken the book, and Shalev was glaring at her pointedly. I raised an eyebrow in silent comment, and then informed the party of the rooms ahead that I had discovered. One of the rooms proved to be a second captain's quarters, again with two chests with more basic clothes and about 1000 silver. 

We decided to carry the empty chests as well as the treasures we had found so far back to the base camp before continuing our explorations. We checked our belongings there, made sure that the trap door was still secure, and then went back out to the hallway I had discovered. 

There were several rooms here, and after checking the doors for traps, Ishmael opened the first one to show a small room where a black robed man was studying. He looked up in alarm and began to chant, and Shalev and Ishmael immediately rushed in to attack. Shalev's attacks missed, and the robed man was able to cast his spell successfully. Ishmael succeeded in his attack, and smashed the desk into the man in the chair, pushing it into him. The priest looked surprised that he was hit by anything at all, and Ishmael continued his bludgeoning attacks on the furniture. Shalev swung again, and missed again much to his frustration. The priest shouted out an alarm, and the other four doors opened as the priests inside them curiously stuck their heads out into the hallway to see what was going on. Upon seeing us there, they all stepped out into the hall and began casting various spells. They never got the chance. Tobias, pulling both of his maces, raced down the hallway in a deadly wave of attacks. KelLyn reached out to touch the closest priest, casting a spell with her contact. Osman shot an arrow at the next closest priest. Fife speared the priest in the back of the hallway, and I used my bow to put an arrow in the other's face. 

The priest in the room with Ishmael and Shalev tried then to cast a drain life spell on Shalev. Shalev's brooch flared to life, protecting him completely, and causing Shalev's aura as a paladin to pulse in a flex of spiritual muscle that we could all feel. The priest went wide-eyed, and began casting yet another spell, and Shalev rolled out of the way, and out of the room. Fife and I used the opening to our advantage, and were both successful with spear and arrow, hitting the offending priest in the face as Ishmael simultaneously charged bodily into the priest, taking him out finally. The other priests go down easily after that, and both bodies and rooms are empty of anything of interest. 

There is a gruesome painting at the end of the hallway, but though I examined it closely, I couldn't find anything of note. It was a hidden door, however, and when we turned away from it to head back down the hallway, it opened silently and an armored man stepped through. The only warning we had was when KelLyn suddenly fell over, apparently dead. Shalev ran over to her, to remove her pack, thinking that it was the book she picked up from the library that had caused her collapse. As he shoved it away from her, he glanced up to see the dark paladin looming in the shadows. Ishmael rushed to give her a potion, and Tobias grabbed her and dragged her into one of the now empty priest's quarters. Lan and I followed to try to find out why she had collapsed, and see what we could do to save her. 

As we moved out of the way, the armored man threw a stick at Shalev which changed into an adder in midair. Shalev didn't even blink at the deadly serpent though, and it fell harmlessly to the floor as he charged at the enemy shouting that he hadn't worked so hard at not killing KelLyn only to have someone else do it. He swung his holy sword, aiming the powerful blow a the armored man's neck. With a screech of metal, the strike hit home, shearing through the thick metal gorget at his throat, and killing the unholy paladin with a single dreadful impact.  The unholy paladin fell to the floor, and Shalev used his foot to pry his sword from the remains. He swore softly when he saw that the deadly strike had damaged his blade, but stopped short when he heard the sound of crumpling metal. He looked down in time to see the armor of the unholy paladin crumpling and cracking, shrinking in on itself and crushing down into nothing. The implosion covered Shalev in the gory remains of what was left behind, and he shook the blood off of his blade with an irritated sniff. 

Meanwhile, Lan, Tobias and I were struggling to save KelLyn. Lan and Tobias worked to keep her alive, while I tried to locate the reason for her collapse. Shalev walked in then, covered in gore, and showed me the stick that had turned to a serpent. I recognized the description Shalev gave of the poisonous reptile as an adder, as they were fairly common back home in the desert, and was quickly able to pull together the components for an antidote. Once I was able to get the antidote down her throat, the results were fairly immediate. She regained consciousness, and was quickly able to be up and about with no lasting effects from the toxin. As soon as she was awake she rushed over to the book she had acquired from the library, flipping through pages and muttering to herself about inept spell casters and something about an attempt against her, when suddenly she exclaimed loudly "a lich?! They were trying to make me a lich?!" and began both laughing and swearing sulphurously. 

None of this made much sense to the rest of the party, however, so we let it go as the mysteries of magic users, and went in to examine the room that was revealed by the secret door. This was the paladin's personal chamber, and it boasted opulent furnishings and a basin of water, and a small alter to the demon god. Shalev purified the water in the basin, and then used it to clean some of the gore off.  He commented that the carpeting in this room was quite valuable, and we rolled it up to add to the treasures we had already discovered. He then took some time to tear down the tapestries on the walls, eventually revealing a hidden door. Fife offered to check for traps, and I let him take point. He found no traps, but the lock on the door proved to be beyond his skill, so I took care of the lock to reveal a small vault with three chests. 

The chests held:

  • 50 gold plates
  • 20 platinum plates
  • 2 ornate ivory scroll tubes with ivory stoppers

KelLyn offered to use her slate to identify the scrolls, and was successfully able to identify the first one as a scroll of protection from demons. The second, however, had some sort of enchantment upon it, and as soon as it touched the slate, it drained all of the magic from it. KelLyn went white with fury, and we all wisely left the room, lest in her anger, she lash out at the rest of the party. We carried the treasures - the carpet, the plates, and the scrolls (safely back inside the ivory casings)  back to base camp. 

Once back at base camp, we deposited the rug and plates near the chests, and sat down with some relief to rest. Shalev took detailed measures to make sure that he was clean after being coated in such gore for most of the day, and the rest of us followed his example, taking the time to refresh ourselves as necessary. Watches were set, and the first two passed uneventfully. Shalev and I were on third watch, and during the small, quiet hours, we saw a group of 4 robed figures approaching us. As soon as they saw us, their eyes glowed red, and fangs extended from their mouths. They glared at us, and Shalev slumped over in an enchanted sleep. They looked with surprise at the fact that I had not also fallen over, and it was the last act they had a chance to make. I shouted to the rest of the party, and drew my sword. Bow and arrow would have proven useless here, so outnumbered. I swung the sword in a deadly arc, hoping to take one or two out before having to seriously engage. My worry proved pointless, however, as my aim was truer than even I knew, and the arc of the sword screaming through the air took all four out with deadly precision. The corpses were identified as some kind of were-creature, and they had nothing of interest on them, so they were drug over to the room where KelLyn had ignited the volatile fires earlier in the adventures. The room was still radiating with heat, and when the bodies were thrown in, they burned to ash. 

The rest of the night passed uneventfully, and the next day we go to explore the remaining rooms of this level of the tomb. In one of the rooms, I discover a hidden compartment containing a chest, and Shalev, having taken note of the traps we had previously faced, wrapped a heavy tapestry around the chest to remove it safely. 
He felt the impact of four darts, but the tapestry proved enough of a protection, and there was no harm done. 
Inside the chest was:

  • a bag of silver (about 3000 pieces) 
  • a bag of gold (about 4000 pieces) 
  • about 200 platinum pieces
  • 6 gold brooches (worth approximately 500 gp each) 

Ishmael helped to appraise the jewelry, and claimed one of the brooches for himself, which he put on. 
The next room was hidden behind a secret door covered by the bas relief of the demon god, much like the entrance to the tomb in the dragon's lair. The room revealed appeared to be some kind of study, with a sturdy desk. The desk had one drawer that continually re-locked itself, and after several attempts at unlocking it, I finally gave in, and stepped back so that Ishmael could gleefully smash the desk to pieces. The drawer, now easily accessible, contained written notes that looked like spell research. We called KelLyn over, and she grabbed up the notes, looking through them with surly interest. One page held a scrawled riddle on it: 

Past the doors you cannot find, 
Down the steps you cannot climb, 
And across the River of Nothingness 
You’ll find your way. 
Beware the marksman and his prey. 
Shun the royal brides! 
Then find the place I lie in eternal feast! 
Past glories I despise; 
The light of vengeance fills my eye. 
Treasure I give my servant dragon, 
Guardian loyal of this, my reborn feeding lair.

After reading it out, Osman asks to see the page, and then spent a moment translating it into the language of the lizard men. He mentioned with some amusement that when translated thus, it actually rhymed, but nothing else was revealed by changing it to it's intended language. Once the desk was reduced to rubble, there was nothing else in the room, save a pair of heavy gold candlesticks, which Ishmael picked up and placed in his pack. 

The riddle is interesting, and I feel as if it might shine some light on what might still lay ahead of us. With all of the traps we have discovered so far, and the pervasive evil that this entire place, it would not surprise me if more lethal traps awaited us. It bears researching more, I think, and serves as a warning - to me at least -  of what may lie ahead. While we have a relatively safe space here in this room, I will try to teach my party members how to move more quietly. To be more aware of their surroundings, and to step carefully is going to be an essential skill for everyone. We have been incredibly lucky so far, in that our raucous explorations have not brought more enemies down on us, and I do not relish finding out what else may be out there the hard way. 

The next room we discovered was some kind of alchemical laboratory. Long, low tables lined the walls with bottles and vials of components and powders. Most of it was fairly commonplace, and of no interest, but we did find one vial of powdered diamond, which KelLyn pocketed. The southern wall of this laboratory boasted a secret door, but I could find no way to open it up. I asked KelLyn to take a look at it, and she cast a simple spell to discern how the mechanism worked. After a moment, and in a fit of amused irony, she pulled out the unidentified scroll and touched it to the wall, draining it of magic, and causing the latch to release. 

The room revealed was pitch black, and not even Tobias, with his dark vision could see inside. KelLyn discerned that it was a magical darkness, and cast a spell to revoke the magic inside. The darkness fell away, and showed a man in a black robe at the far end of the room, reading from a scroll. Ishmael immediately charged in like an angry bull, and hit the unprepared magic user with all of the force of a battering ram. The robed man was crushed by the impact, and KelLyn found the whole scene terribly amusing. Through her tears of laughter she revealed that he had, indeed, been casting a spell, but that it was defense against magic, not against brute force. So he never even saw it coming.  As she recovered herself, chuckling and chortling the whole time, Shalev took a piece of tapestry and waved it around in an attempt to find trap wires or other hidden things. He was successful in revealing an invisible chest in one corner. 

KelLyn easily removed the invisibility, still chuckling to herself, and we check the chest for traps. While we do that, she goes over to check the robed man to see what he may have had on him. 

The robed man had a cloak, a ring, and a wand on him. 
The chest contained: 
3000 silver pieces
500 gold pieces
500 platinum pieces
a book

Since KelLyn's slate was drained of power, she used her magic to basically identify the objects as being magical. The ring was spelled with move/control human with a subrealm of water. The cloak was spelled with move/control magic. The wand was spelled with create mind. The book was spelled with a variety of things, but primarily with destroy magic with a subrealm of fire. 

Shalev cautioned her to check the book before she read anything, but KelLyn ignored him, reading the title of the book regardless. The book was spelled with some kind of explosive rune, and the second she read it, it exploded, injuring Ishmael, Fife, KelLyn and myself. KelLyn gave me a potion to bring me back to health, but sadly the book was completely destroyed. 

KelLyn shrugged and commented that it was no big deal, but I could see that the loss of potential power and knowledge was a pain to her. She claimed both the cloak and the wand, and then stalked away in an increasingly bad mood. I added the ring to the stash of treasures to be checked later, and the party decided that since there were injuries to be healed, that we would go back to base camp one more time before venturing beneath to the lower levels and beyond. 

We still have not revealed the main passageway to the lower levels, but in our conversations about the events of the day, Shalev remembered seeing a door underneath the tapestries in the center worship area with the idol of the demon god. Perhaps that is the way we seek. There is still the trap door under the room we use as base camp, and the narrow corridor beyond. There is still the prowling demon figure that Lan saw. There is still Sacatha himself, wherever he may lie. 

Much to be done, and much to do. The pile of treasures we have discovered grows exponentially, and I can't help but wonder how we will transport it all back to the count. We each get our share, of course, but the vast majority should go towards rebuilding this broken town, and rekindling hope in the beleaguered folk here. 

But that will be after we escape this wretched tomb, and if we survive the battles to come. 

For now, I will say a prayer to my god and goddess for continuing to watch over us. I feel the press of the evil here like a constant ache, and I need their touch and reassurance in my mind. Like a child who runs to her parents when they've had a nightmare, I wish to do nothing more than to run to them for comfort and protection. During my meditations and contemplation, I will continue to ask for their guidance. They may not be able to reach me here, but I will still continue to do what I can. 

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